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Kitten Ambassador

Laura Beil

Tri-City Tales Issue No. 8

The emails finally got to Carolyn Skeels in the spring of 2014. As a longtime employee for the City of Cedar Hill, she would receive a message every year from Tri-City Animal Shelter pleading for kitten foster care. Most years, she would read it, think for a minute, and move on to the next email. But then one year she answered: Yes, she could take some kittens.

At the time, she and her husband Chuck never intended to become champion kitten foster parents. It was just something that happened. The following spring—because for the shelter spring means kittens—there was the message again. And again, she responded: They would take more kittens.

Year after year fosters added up: five kittens became 30, and 30 became almost 90. Around the office, she earned the nickname “Kitten Ambassador.” And after that, how could she say no? “When you first start this, you don’t realize how many kittens come through that door,” she says.

At first, her biggest worry was not taking the kittens in, but letting them go. She and Chuck quickly learned that saying goodbye wasn’t as difficult as they feared, knowing that their kittens were off to loving homes. They got snapshots of their kittens all grown up, and even formed some lifelong friendships with the new owners.

One man saw the Facebook photo of a tabby named Tiger, adopted the little guy on the spot and decided to become a foster kitten parent himself. Today, he lives in Hawaii but he and the Skeels are still in touch, still exchanging cat photos.

Some kittens arrived frightened and feral. To adjust to life indoors, they needed more daily attention than the threadbare shelter staff could spare.

Chuck sometimes came home from work and crouched on the floor with kittens too scared to show themselves, inching a dish of food closer day by day, until finally they allowed him to touch them. “If they don’t get foster care, they don’t get the love and support they need to start out their lives,” he says.

Other kittens arrived sick or injured. The Skeels tried to nurse each one back to health, saving all the lives they could. One came in with severe eye infections in need of specialty care. By the time she had overcome her problems, she was practically part of the family. They named her Ellie, and she never left. (Of the 87 kittens they have raised, five became permanent foster fails.)

            Last year, the Skeels kitten career came to an end, when they retired and moved to Carolyn’s home state of Missouri.

They miss the joy of giving kittens a loving start to life, and say they would gladly foster again if they could find a local program. And they hope that others will now answer the Tri-City message: Yes, we can take some kittens.

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